Here I invited Dylan Morrison, Irish author of The Prodigal Prophet (see link below), to join the conversation on how to have “Christ” without the “-ianity.” Myself (Cyndi), Amy, and Rachel also joined.
The Prodigal Prophet on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Prodigal-Prophet-Dylan-Morrison/dp/1460943503
Also connect on Facebook with us to continue the conversation: www.facebook.com/groups/christnotchristianity
I have listened to the whole google hangout video which I found refreshing as the sharing of insights and experiences among the participants were open and honest. As Dylan noted, christian churches are very conservative, no matter how radical they appear, therefore it can feel restrictive to vocalise our honest thoughts and feelings in a church environment, since the authority figures would frown upon open expressions of honest thoughts and feelings. Cyndi said that there is something about the format and structure of churches that breeds hypocrisy, and she felt that the churchy language didn’t make sense in the real world, and there’s something about that one hour on Sundays and not sharing our authentic life that feels as if church life is separate from real life.
Dylan shared that our psyche or soul is where all our inner life and brokenness resides. Yet the church tends to focus on “heaven” in future and how “awful” we were as a person before we got to know them and God because they were trying to project the idealism of what “born again” experience is like. As a result, churches don’t like to talk about brokenness, as therapists do. Hence, being in such church environments can cause us to be constantly living with an inner tension between what we believe and how we actually feel. Like what he pointed out, most christians are actually unhappy people but they put on great smiles.
Rachel agreed, saying the church is not safe to be true to yourself, and what we learnt are lies concerning who we are. She recalled learning to sing the hymn “my heart is black with sin” when she was growing up, and she found that the doctrine of blood cleansing sins makes no sense. She found the institutional church a cultic environment where there is control, manipulation and judgment.
Cyndi agreed, saying that actually we are the church (and not an organisation). Dylan added that the dynamic of the church is not like that of a soccer club or a film society, for example, as the church has to do with looking for existential and metaphysical meanings. But when God and the group almost become identical, then folks can find it so hard to walk away from the group, no matter how radical the group claims to be, therefore in that sense, religious groups have the potential to be very dangerous, especially if they give people the impression that leaving the groups equates to “leaving God”.
Dylan also said that for him, truth is not a conceptual thing, but rather something that resonates with us vibrationally. The problem with organised religions, especially western religions, is that they are concept-oriented, so if truth were to be presented as just a concept, many people do not actually experience truth. He added that postmodernism is saying truth does not reside in concepts; rather we are looking for truth outside concepts as spiritual experience; yet modernistic religions tend to “demonise” postmodernism, so to speak. Rachel said that in the institutional church, we are often taught what to believe, not how to think, hence we are missing awareness and authenticity, and we are not questioning. Cyndi agreed, saying that she was shut up in her religious anxiety as she did not feel free to question in the fear-based church environment. Amy remarked that the institutional church does not want to be challenged and they just want people to accept the beliefs. She said we don’t have to participate in church activities in order to help people understand what Jesus taught, for instance.
Cyndi asked the question about where the Christ part is without the institutional church, and Dylan answered, saying Yeshua said “follow me”, not follow a religion or a belief system. The only thing we can follow is Christ’s teachings. He also mentioned about the cosmic Christ, Christ consciousness and spirit breath. Cyndi shared that she experienced communing with Christ before, in her own personal life. Dylan acknowledged we can be open to the nudge in the spirit – that is what following Christ is. Amy mentioned that Christ consciousness is the expression of God deep within us.
Dylan also talked about crucifixion as a final act showing that if God were to be a man, this is what he would look like – he is not a violent and vengeful God described in the old testament; in fact, a lot of violence was projected on God in the old testament, and Jesus was trying to explain the nature of God. He pointed out that the evolutionary process throughout the old testament involves prophets who tried to show God did not want their sacrifices.
Finally, Dylan answered the question “How much of christian culture – worship styles, christian behaviours, etc – do we need to shift away in order to enable folks to really start to see Christ as the core?” by saying that a radical approach would be to let the whole thing go because if Christ consciousness is there, he will always find a way of manifesting himself because it is in his very nature that he wants to engage with humanity. We can love people wherever we are. Christ in us is the hope of glory. Even if we don’t go to “church”, Christ is still there with us, and we can still talk to him.
Talking about being authentic, I was reflecting that maybe one reason why people who watch TV and movies sometimes like to watch sad movies or TV serial dramas is because at least the characters in the story enable them to re-enact the sad moments in their own lives and reconnect themselves to their soul, getting in touch with their emotions which otherwise would have been suppressed by other daily distractions in the society.
As for the modernistic church, the happy-clappy environment is just another form of drug that numbs the deep feelings of brokenness and loneliness we all feel inside our psyche or soul from time to time. The suppression of emotions in such an environment may work for those who are caught up living in the societal system that focuses on career, family, entertainment, fashion, etc, as it serves as a constant escapade from facing the darkness of their wounded psyche or soul that has been festering from past hurts and negative conditionings by family, school, workplace and institutional church, and remains repressed – this may not be helpful in the long run, because such repression can cause raw emotions to surface in unexpected ways at unexpected moments, and can cause hurt to themselves and others around them.